Michael Haneke (screenplay, based on a novel by Elfriede Jelinek), Michael Haneke (director) La Pianiste (The Piano Teacher) / 2001, USA 2002
When Michael Haneke’s powerful film The Piano Teacher first opened in 2002 in the US, numerous American critics described it as “depraved,” “unwatchable,” and “deeply disturbing,” even while saluting the director’s masterful approach and the wonderful acting of the film’s star, Isabelle Huppert (the film was awarded the top prizes for directing and its two major actors at Cannes). But even the mostly perceptive reviewer Roger Ebert could not quite put his finger on what was behind Huppert’s figure, Erika Kohut’s bizarre sexual behavior.
At a recital in which Erika plays in a wealthy Vienna apartment, the musician meets handsome if slightly haughty young man, Walter Klemmer (Benoît Magimel) the nephew of the apartment’s owner. During a buffet discussion he speaks somewhat intelligently about her performance, but she remains wary. He is evidently studying engineering at the university, but a piano performance by him after the buffet demonstrates that he has true musical talent as well, and despite Erika’s
Erika Kohut: Schubert's dynamics range from scream to whisper not loud to soft. Anarchy hardly seems your forte. Why not stick to Clementi? Schubert was quite ugly. Did you know? With your looks, nothing can ever hurt you.
Erika Kohut: Mannerism is no...
[she walks away]